Chapter One - Taylor Lautner
Rizzoli & Isles belongs to Tess Gerritsen, Janet Tamaro, TNT, and the host of writers, producers, cast, and crew who create the show we love to watch. We are not any of those people.
Spoilers for Seasons One and Two AND the books. Rated M for mature topics (not sex scenes), murder, religion, and language.
The concept for the story was born late one night, when we were emailing, wish that the show would tackle this sort of subject on their own, in their own impressively gay eye-sex way. Since they (probably) won't, we will. I am phenomenally grateful that Googlemouth agreed to help me. It's immeasurably better with her help. The title is taken directly from the "It Gets Better" campaign, which we personally feel is important. Kids need to know that they're okay, and they're not alone. But we'll let Jane and Maura explain it better. If you or someone you know is being bullied, please stand up for them. Look into itgetsbetter DOT com and thetrevorproject DOT com and talk to someone. You're not alone, and we love you just the way you are.
Also, I'm not Catholic but I know some really awesome ones who are totally fine with the whole gay thing. They know who we're writing about in this story, and why it can't be sugarcoated. Dignity/Boston is a real place, and by far not the only gay-welcoming Catholic Church in the US.
Co-written by Chapsticklez and Googlemouth. You can find us on Twitter as chapsticklez and Googlemouth.
Alone in a dark room, a young boy in his early teens typed on his computer. He clicked the mouse and took a shaky breath, shoving his curly blond hair out of his face. His hand trembled slightly as a green light flicked on at the top of his laptop.
"Hi." His voice was quiet, as if afraid he would be overheard. "My name is Brandon Thorne, and I'm gay." Brandon coughed a little. "I'm sending this video out there because I want you guys to know it gets better. That you can-" Brandon hiccuped a tear and closed his eyes. "That you can make it. That all those people telling you you're worthless, they're wrong. They're-" His young voice broke, and he coughed as if to cover it up. "They're wrong. God doesn't make garbage. You're not garbage and neither am I. It sucks right now, but it gets better. That's what the Trevor Project wants you to know. Join your GSA, your Gay-Straight Alliance, at school. Start one if there isn't one. Find some friends or something. They've got to be out there somewhere, right? It gets better."
Again he stopped, and this time he couldn't go on. His nose ran, and the tears he tried to stifle turn into hiccup-studded sobs. "I have to believe it gets better, because I really don't think it can get any worse. If it does, I don't think I can... You know, screw it. I can't do this. It doesn't get better! I can't live like this anymore." He looked off to one side and ...
"Hut, hut, HIKE!" shouted Tommy and he took three quick steps back. His older sister took off, running straight out. "Come on," he muttered, as his brother grappled with the Talucci's eldest. "Come on, Janie, break free!"
Giovanni was covering Jane, however, and as one of the few guys with height on her, he took advantage of that. And of trying to cop a feel. "Damn it, Giovanni! Stop it!" snapped Jane, and she shoved him with the flat of her palms. "Tommy! Throw it!"
"Yes!" cheered Tommy, hurling the football down the yard, a split second before the eldest Talucci tackled him into the ground.
As Tommy and Frankie struggled to their feet, Jane had the ball but had stopped running. Ah no, thought Tommy, as his sister pointed the ball at Giovanni, who shouted about unfair play. Jane's phone was out. "Shut up for a minute, guys," she demanded, and Tommy groaned. All he wanted was a day to play with his sister, when she wasn't off at work, or with her LLBFF (whatever the hell that meant), Maura. Who'd turned him down. "Yo, Frankie, come on." She flipped the football to Giovanni and hustled back up the lawn to Tommy, "Sorry, kiddo, we caught a case."
The police officer siblings hauled Tommy to his feet, hugged him, and piled into Jane's car. "This is why we never ask them to play," grumbled the younger Talucci brother.
"Last time, Jane left in the middle of a Red Sox game!"
Tommy shook his head at his siblings, "Okay, we can do two-a-side. Giovanni, you're with me."
Standing by the body of a young man, a boy really, and an empty bottle of prescription pills, Jane felt her gut roil. "Damn it," muttered Korsak. "This is the fourth one." Chris Anderson's face was a disturbing, doughy mess, instead of what should have been a softly sculptured, attractive boy on the cusp of individuality. His short brown hair fell in a gentle sweep across his forehead, giving him an expression of wry humor. If he wasn't dead.
Four dead kids, none of them older than sixteen, all in the same part of town. In a sick, sick way, Jane wished it was a serial killer and not the apparent suicides she'd been faced with. Jane shook her head and called over to the CSU techs, "Bring the laptop back to the station." To Korsak she added, "Maybe Frost can get something off it."
"The last three had nothin," grumbled Korsak, and he opened the bedroom door to go find Barry.
Jake Graff, Robby Auson, James Smith and now Chris Anderson.
The last three didn't leave any information on their computers, let alone the fancy Android phone their new victim had. So far they'd had two kids take pills of different types, one hung himself, and the fourth (which was the first) stepped in front of an MTA train on his way to summer school. In every case, the kids' friends, siblings, and parents had no idea what was going on. There was no reported bullying at school or at home, and none of the kids showed evidence of abuse (according to Maura).
Jane's eyes roamed over the room. There were posters of Lady Gaga pinned meticulously behind the computer, that Adam Lambert kid from American Idol, and some other people Jane had no idea who they were, thus making her feel old. She looked up and saw glow-in-the-dark stick on stars, however, and smiled in spite of herself. It made Jane think of the pink canopy bed (now sold to torment some other child), and her own childhood. In contrast to those modern pop stars and the cutting edge computer, the kid had a carved wooden crucifix up on the wall by his door.
Her inspection of the room was interrupted by the staccato heels of Dr. Maura Isles. This was neither the time nor the place to embrace her. The relatively recent miracle of having a relationship with Maura still surprised Jane every day. Thankfully, Maura understood Jane's need to keep things under wraps right now, and had been amusingly deflective when answering questions like where she got that hickey. Even with no public expression of affection, Maura lowered Jane's blood pressure just being there.
"Doctor," Jane said evenly.
"Detective," replied Maura, her lips curling up in a smile that Jane hoped no one else noticed. Their eyes were going to give them away one day.
"It looks like another suicide." Jane stepped around to the other side of the bed, letting Maura inspect the body.
Maura picked up the pill bottle. "Oxycodone." She showed the label to Jane. "It would have depressed his breathing to the point of unconsciousness, depending on how many he took." Pushing back one eyelid, the medical examiner frowned. "No petechial hemorrhaging. Overdose is most likely, depending on how many pills were left. That is, if this is the cause of death, which you know I won't be able to determine until I get him back to the lab. In fact, I'd like to point out that just finding the bottle nearby doesn't guarantee that he took any at all."
Without referring to her notes or rising to the easy bait of Maura's refusal to assume even the slightest or most obvious of details, Jane replied, "The mother said the bottle was full. She had it refilled yesterday." The label clearly stated that there were a hundred tablets.
From the doorway, Korsak said "That seems like a lot to me, so I asked the father. Turns out the wife has cancer." Korsak flipped open his notebook. "Lung cancer from asbestos. Before she worked on the Big Dig she was converting old skyscrapers."
Their third partner, Barry Frost, suggested, "Maybe the kid couldn't handle his mom dying on him." Three detectives and one medical examiner looked at the boy, as if he would answer. "Father Brophy's with the parents right now."
Maura's eyes flicked towards Jane, then back to her work, expressively... non-expressive. "I'll finish preliminary work and then have the body taken back to the morgue," said the forensic pathologist with a strange quietness, growing more guarded somehow, though Jane was at a loss to describe, even to herself, why she thought of it in those terms. The alterations to posture and facial expression were so minute that she could not have cataloged them, but her famous gut told her something was hinky here. Brophy was a good guy, as far as Jane knew, but maybe for Maura there was a reason to dislike him. Had she attended one of his services and not found it to her liking? Had he mis-cited some Biblical reference in conversation, or maybe used faulty logic in a moment of impromptu exegesis? When the hell had she, Jane, learned the word exegesis?
Whatever. Not important right now. Focus on the kid, Rizzoli.
"Did the parents okay the autopsy?" Contrary to the misinformation perpetrated by fiction books and movies, autopsies were not required by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. At Barry's nod, Jane pulled off her gloves. "We're out, Maura." In passing, she touched Maura's shoulder, trying to silently ask if the doctor was all right. Maura's smile didn't reach her eyes, but she nodded at Jane. "Frankie, stick around till Maura's done, okay?" she murmured to her brother under her breath, looking back at Maura.
Downstairs, the parents were huddled on a couch. The house had looked perfectly normal. With a pang, Jane realized it reminded her of her parent's house, and not just due to the location - they were in her family's old Revere neighborhood. In a chair beside the parents sat Father Daniel Brophy, the go-to priest for the precinct. Jane liked Father Brophy, he gave off the same comforting aura of solidity and strength her childhood priest had. She was glad the tall, quietly reassuring priest had come, and not the more vocal ones.
Brophy was leaning forward, his earnest intensity doing wonders to calm the parents. He looked up at Jane as she walked into the room, dark eyebrows lifting up in silent benediction. He looked like a slightly younger John Slattery, or maybe Anderson Cooper. "Mr. and Mrs. Anderson, I'm sorry for your loss," Jane said smoothly, taking up the chair opposite Brophy. The duty of giving sympathy while still hunting for information from the bereaved was not one of Jane's favorites. "I don't know if you're aware, but Chris is the fourth young boy of about this age to have taken his own life recently."
The mother, a formerly husky woman now shriveled by cancer, hunched her shoulders. "Do you suspect some kind of foul play?" Her voice held that same edge Jane attributed to construction workers. The husband, an equally worn man of about Korsak's age, though still with the shoulders and fitness of a blue collar worker, took his wife's hand tenderly.
"We're still working that out," admitted Jane. "Do you know if Chris knew any of these boys?" She passed over headshots, school photos, of the three other boys. Mrs. Anderson glanced at them and shook her head, while her husband studied them more carefully. Neither recognized anyone. "Maybe in something after school?"
"No, Chris did soccer, though. I don't think any of those boys were on the team. Maybe a school he played against?" offered the husband. Dutifully, Jane took down the note, though she already knew the other boys didn't play soccer. "He was also in some group, not student government, something else, I don't know what."
Brophy and Jane shared a look, and the priest asked, non-judgmental, "You didn't know what group he was in?"
The parents looked chagrined. "We knew he was in a group, but he was doing so well in school, and his teachers said everything was fine. Things were fine at home. We wanted to show him we trusted him to make his own choices and come to us if he needed help." The father sighed and wiped his face. "I should have paid attention better." Patting his hand, the wife assured him they couldn't have known.
Taking down some more information, and leaving her card, as well as one for a good crime scene cleaning company, Jane stepped outside to breath fresh air. Maura had not yet finished with the body, but the evidence techs were filing out. Soon enough, her goofy genius girlfriend would come down, in her elegant 'these are my crime solving clothes' dress. Had she been anywhere else, Jane would have smiled. Instead, she gave Frost a couple pointers, and let him drive off, saying she'd be there after she talked to Brophy, who didn't keep her waiting long.
"Detective," nodded the priest. "I wish we could meet more often, and under better circumstances."
They shook hands, warmly. "Maybe if you hadn't moved to that big church down the street."
Brophy laughed, a welcoming sort of man. He'd left one of the larger Catholic congregations in downtown, in order to work at the much smaller Paulist Center. A pretty hip and groovy Catholic church, as those things went. "How's your mother?"
"You heard about the divorce? Dad's in Florida. Frankie thinks he has a girlfriend." Jane rolled her eyes. "Ma's doing better, though. She's got a job at the station and she's living with my best friend, if you can believe it."
"That sounds ... " He stopped and groped for the right word. "That sounds horrible," Brophy finally laughed. "You must see her all the time!"
Jane laughed as well, "I'd kill her if I wasn't on her side about the whole thing." They chatted a little more about Jane's family, including Brophy's surprise message to pass along to Tommy.
"By the way, Father Crowley wanted me to tell you that Tommy's welcome at his parish any time."
"After Tommy hit him with a car?" Jane was incredulous.
"We're big on forgiveness," Brophy deadpanned. "Especially for those who can't quite live up to perfection." There was a crinkle in his eyes that told Jane he was laughing inside. "Besides, I'd rather he came to Crowley's or my sermons. If we can get a habitual drinker, a felon, thief, adulterer, any kind of miscreant, it makes us feel like Marines, like we're really fighting the good fight. Plus, if he shows up at Crowley's masses, Crowley wins this round of Sinner Bingo." Jane smiled at the priest and promised she'd pass the message on to her felonious sibling. "I'm going to sit with the family a while more." He gently squeezed Jane's upper arm and went back into the house, promising to tell her if anything important came to light.
Yeah, Brophy was a great priest. They should all be like that.
Feet propped up on her desk, Jane stared at the case notes she'd entered into the computer. "This doesn't make any sense," she complained to her partners.
"Suicide doesn't make sense to me anyway," admitted Frost, staring at his own computer. "Why kill yourself?" Sitting at his, slightly separate, desk, Korsak said nothing. His silence was a little daunting. Frost quickly looked back at his desk, giving Jane a 'what the fuck?' look.
Jane at up and pulled out the photos. While everything was stored on the computer, sometimes it was just better to look at it physically. And if Korsak wanted to tell Frost what was on his mind, he would. She laid out the pictures of each boy's room and reviewed it. "Korsak, is Cavanaugh sure he wants us on this?"
The sergeant nodded, "Yeah. At four kids, it's startin' to look like a suicide pact."
"If these kids even knew each other. Different lives, different interests. They didn't have anything in common. Not even how they died." Jane tossed her set of photos onto her desk and groaned. Something was really wrong about the rooms, and she couldn't figure it out. "Two of these kids didn't decorate their rooms. It was like they were boarders, guests in their own homes." She knew she was having trouble getting a feel for the kids, since she'd only been able to personally visit two of the scenes. The further away she was from a victim, the harder it was to connect.
Across the desks, Jane and Korsak shared a look. "Maybe the doc has something we can use," he suggested, rotating his chair back and forth. "Gimme the pictures." Jane tossed the photos over and texted Maura, who replied she had the preliminary tox panels. No one else on the planet used perfect English spelling and grammar while texting. At least not every time. "This doesn't look right," said Korsak, pulling Jane out of her own head.
Both Frost and Jane came around to stand behind Korsak. "Looks like a kid's room," said Frost, as the images from their latest crime scene were spread out on Korsak's desk.
Korsak jabbed a finger at crime scene photos of each of the walls in turn. "There's my point. A kid decorates his room, right? What'd you have up in yours, Frost?"
"Posters. I had John Elway, couple of basketball players. Boyz II Men, and I don't want to hear another word about that. It was a phase."
"Yeah, and who else? Girls right?" pressed Korsak. Jane blinked and looked at the photos again.
Frost frowned at the question, "Yeah, a bunch of those. Halle Berry, Vivica Fox..." He looked again at the collection of photos as Korsak's point dawned on him. "This guy's got Gaga and Twilight."
"Not just any Twilight," corrected Jane. "The one with Taylor Lautner up front." Both men looked at her, surprised. "What? You got a problem with me knowing that?"
As her partners studiously looked away, Maura entered the bullpen, brandishing the toxicology results from Chris Anderson's death. "Definitely suicide," she confirmed grimly, handing Jane the results. "Premeditated. He ground the pills to a powder before ingesting them, which I verified when I ran his gut."
Frost looked surprised, "What good does that do?"
"Most pills are coated in order to time-release medication, and not overwhelm the body at once. By crushing the pills, you cause more of it to enter your bloodstream at once, increasing the effect. This often causes accidental death among the elderly, as they have trouble swallowing the larger pills." Maura looked over Jane's shoulder at the photos. "The oxycodone was extended-release, 10mg pills. It wouldn't take that many to kill someone his weight."
Handing the results to Frost, Jane watched her partner pale a little. "How'd he keep that many down?" She asked the medical examiner.
Maura replied absently, "Ginger and honey. You should try that, Barry." The general silence caused her to look up from the photos Maura had begun to peruse, and the open staring made her mentally review what she'd said. "No! I meant, try it next time you come to the morgue." She flushed; so did he, though fewer people noticed it because of his coffee complexion. She hadn't meant to draw attention once again to Frost's weak stomach and sensitivity to death.
Normally Jane would have smiled, but the pictures kept nagging at her. "The crucifix is weird, isn't it Korsak," Jane muttered, tapping the picture and bringing them back to the present. "He put up posters everywhere else, but he left that alone."
"I was thinkin' more of the weird posters," admitted Korsak. "I'd have pegged it as a girl's room. Too clean."
Jane snorted, "Ask my Ma, and it's too clean for any teenager's room."
Put out, Maura objected, "My room was very clean." Jane smiled at her, shaking her head. "What?"
In for a penny... Jane sighed and pointed out the obvious to her girlfriend. "You had a maid."
"That's immaterial. My parents insisted that she not clean my room. They wanted me to be self-sufficient," Maura replied, primly, her haughtiness on full blast, until she distracted herself with her own squeal. "Oh, Taylor Lautner! He's the cute one." She pointed at the photos on Korsak's desk. The men did not fix Maura with the same look Jane had gotten. Double standard much?
Jane walked back over to her desk, pacing. "Frost, do the four kids have anything in common? We struck out on three, but maybe four will triangulate better."
The second the words were out of her mouth, Jane winced. There was no stopping Maura now. "Triangulation works best with two fixed angles, or known reference points. The distance apart can throw off your calculations due to the Earth's curvature, though Willebrord Snell's improvements to the process in the 1600s, with multiple triangles, may be applicable. Of course in this colloquial usage, you're probably thinking that more data points would yield a hitherto unseen connection."
There was silence as that data dump was processed by the police officers. "Right, exactly what I meant," Jane said dryly. "Better get on that, Frost." The younger man hid behind his computer, smirking, and started typing away. "And check churches. The Andersons are Catholic. Maybe one or two of the other kids were too."
A short rustling of paper came from Korsak, "Nothin' in the case notes. Who the hell - Oh, Crowe." He held up the interview notes. "I'll go sit on him," offered Korsak, and he went to go find Crowe and beat him over the head with his own inefficiency.
"What's wrong with him?" asked Barry, peeking around from his monitor.
"He does seem a little touchy," agreed Maura.
Jane shook her head. "You'll have to ask him. Frost? Computer magic me." Snorting, Frost went back to work and Jane started pulling her hair. Maura clucked at her and sat in Jane's chair. "Shut up," she scowled at her best friend, who had said nothing. "That cross is bugging me. Ma put a crucifix up on my wall when I was 16, trying to get me to stop fooling around with boys."
"I don't remember seeing that in your room," Maura said, surprised.
Pointedly, Jane ignored Frost's little look from over the monitor. "Yeah, I took it down and told her Tommy knocked it off my wall. She never found it."
"Where'd you put it?" asked Frost, interested.
"Pop's office. She'd never look there. Wonder where it is now." Not that she wanted, or needed, the comfort of the church she'd left, or the father who had walked out on all of them. Jane shivered a little, at lost family and a life that was no longer her own. "Anyway, point is, I hated it, I got rid of it. This kid? Crucifix up on one wall, Gaga and Twilight on the other. That doesn't mesh. He had to care about them both to keep them up. Or he was afraid."
A ding came from Frost's computer. "Nothing in common, unless the kids had Facebook or Twitter accounts their parents didn't know about. I'm pulling GPS off the phones to track them, see if their paths intersected."
Jane's eyebrows rose, "Nice idea."
"Got it from a story by Cory Doctorow," grinned Frost. Then he swore, "Damn it, Robby turned GPS off on his phone, and James had his dad's old one." Jane waggled her head at Frost, silently asking what the hell that meant. "Means I can only triangulate based on his phone calls. If he didn't make any calls while they were in the same place, it's no good."
"Can't find 'em on Facebook?"
Frost shook his head, "You know, some kids don't use their real names anymore. Hide from their folks."
"But that's in violation of the terms of service," gasped Maura.
"Yes, yes it is," Jane smiled at Maura. "What about their friends? Can't you brute force the data?" Frost winced, but allowed as he could, and went to work. That was going to keep him busy for at least the rest of the day.
More data was the name of the game.
The Cory Doctorow story Frost mentions is "I Robot" and can be found for free on craphound DOT com under the collection 'Overclocked.'
Reviews are love. Pleas will not change the outcome of the story, but they might spur a little bit more momentum with getting the edits done faster.